We are shopping all the time. Personally and professionally. Large purchases or small. Immediate or long-term. Regardless of the type of purchase, we usually seek out advice from friends, colleagues and experts to help guide our decisions. They provide insight and validation during the shopping process. We trust them. Those sources can also be called our “network”. Why is this trusted network important? A Forrester research survey found that 70% of consumers trust recommendations from friends and family, 55% trust professional reviews and 46% customer reviews. Imagine the strength of a Case Study that was “shared” by a colleague who “commented” about what a great service it is. Now imagine those that are currently “shopping” for those types of services. They are actively looking for recommendations to narrow the search. That is the power of social media.
Social Media is not just for pictures of the kids and family vacations, it can be a powerful business tool that allows us, the consumer, to narrow the products and services for which we are shopping.
Now flip it around – what if you are the seller and it’s your products or services that are being “reviewed? Wouldn’t you want to be part of – or at least see – the reviews? You have to be present on social media to do so. While your customers may be advocates of your company, they probably aren’t going to proactively post/tweet/comment on how great your company is on social media pages. But if you were to post a customer success story, your customers can easily-with a click of a button-use social media to spread your message to their network by liking, sharing, and re-tweeting.
The biggest misnomer is that using social media in certain industries is not worthwhile. Since about 25% of the population is using social media – that’s about 1.73 billion people (eMarketer, April 2014) – we can speculate that at least 25% of employees, regardless of their industry, are using social media, personally and professionally. If someone is looking at their personal Facebook page and an interesting article appears about their industry, they’ll take notice…and if it’s good content they’ll take action.
How do you get your company started? The best part of social media is that you can be as passive or proactive as you want. If, for instance, you are a small manufacturing firm, a reasonable first step would be to identify companies that are part of your target audience – those companies that you sell to, would like to sell to or you compete with and “follow” or “like” them. You can now be a passive or active participant in the conversation. You can listen to customer’s challenges so you can be a solution. You can watch your competition and identify their areas of focus. You can see who is engaging and identify future customers.
Social media is an avenue to spread your message and allow your advocates to sell for you. It’s generally free so it has a ton of upside potential with very little risk.